Born Siegfried Pollack into a Jewish family in Vienna in 1925, Pollard went out of exile in December 1938 when his parents secured a place for him on one of the Kindertransporte to Britain. A Jewish committee in Edinburgh had provided the funds for his departure. Pollard never saw his parents again and they perished in the Nazi death camps Holocaust, where and when is not known. In 1943, he changed his name and went into the British army, becoming a corporal and being demobilised in 1947.
Pollard joined the LondonSchool of Economics. While there, he joined the Communist Party. But he did not stay long in the Party, later commenting that he did not feel himself to be a political animal as such and, in any case, he had strongly felt that as a foreigner he ought not to engage directly in political action in his host country. More to the point, it could have been positively dangerous for him as the cold war now intensified. Even so, Pollard was definitely a member and perhaps stayed sympathetic – at least as an “undogmatic” Marxist, according to John Saville. Pollard was a founder member of the Society for the Study of Labour History in 1960 and maintained a lifelong interest in this aspect of study.
In 1951, Pollard finished a doctorate on the history of the British shipbuilding industry but his supervisor was an intellectual ally of Hayek, the infamous intellectual advocate of free market capitalism. Like many strongly left-wing and young academics at this time, Pollard had difficulty in securing a full academic appointment. Only by 1950 was he able to take a research fellowship, with no teaching involved, at the University of Sheffield.
He became an unaligned Marxist and headed economic history at Sheffield for many years. Pollard became much more widely published and internationally recognised than he could ever have expected at the time he moved to Sheffield – though his Communist past – and his friendships in the DDR – caused him to be refused entry to the USA in 1971. During the 1980s, Pollard lectured in Western Germany. He died in Sheffield on 22 November 1998 aged 73 years.